Dre Kirkpatrick: Forgotten First-Rounder

Matt GrayContributor IMay 3, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama waves a she walks on stage after he was selected #17 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals selected Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th pick of the 2012 NFL draft.

Since then, he's failed to stay healthy.

He didn't get on the field until November and was limited in five appearances.

After struggling with a knee injury for much of the 2012 season, Kirkpatrick was put on injured reserve on Christmas Day, concluding a disappointing rookie campaign.

He ended the year with four tackles to his name.

While the Bengals enjoy high praise for another savvy draft class in 2013, it's easy to forget about their first-round pick from a year ago.

As we march onwards to the 2013 season, it feels as though Kirkpatrick is as much a rookie as Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard and the rest.

We're under a month away form the Bengal's first OTA's and Kirkpatrick's health remains unclear.

Asked in mid-April about Kirkpatrick's status, Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer told me he hadn't spoken to him for three weeks but when he did, the former Alabama CB "seemed pleased" with his recovery.

Meanwhile, Cincy have put their insurance plan into effect. They decided to bring back Terence Newman and Adam Jones this offseason, while letting go of Nate Clements.

Right now, it has to be expected that Newman will line up opposite Leon Hall in the season opener.

On paper you would expect Kirkaptrick to push for a starting job.

However, after disappointing early showings, it was Newman who grew to be a solid member of the Bengals defense in 2012. He was by no means sensational but he thrived under Mike Zimmer's tutelage.

He impressed to the tune of $5 million and two years, a great deal for him considering his standing prior to joining the Bengals.

It also reflects a Cincinnati team unwilling to bet on Kirkpatrick's health.

This has all the makings of a great roster battle in training camp. Not only is Kirkpatrick playing catch-up after a year in which he was unable to contribute in practice or on the field, now he's faced with fighting off a resurgent veteran who is playing his best football in years.

Of course it's easy to throw Kirkpatrick under the bus.

But, the truth is, that injuries and recovery times affect all people differently. We are yet to see the best from Dre Kirkpatrick and there's no knowing whether a year on the sidelines will have caused any detriment to his game.

There's perhaps one key point to remember in all of this.

While Carson Palmer joins his second struggling team in three years, the Cincinnati Bengals are months away from seeing Giovani Bernard and Dre Kirkpatrick make their mark on a team that are fast becoming perennial postseason contenders.